Apple Introduces Cheaper and More Powerful New iPhones

Apple unveiled the two latest offerings in its insanely successful line of smartphones. Winston Ross reports.

Break out the bubbly.

What better way to celebrate the biggest announcement in tech than with champagne, which just so happens to be the newest offering in the newest line of smartphones from the makers (Apple) of the coolest sleekest phones on the market?

Yes, champagne. The rumors were true. It’s pretty and glistening and golden. But there’s so much more to the next generations of iPhones than what’s exoskeleton deep, and there needed to be. Apple’s stock has been on the decline. In the developing world, it’s losing market share to cheaper competitors. In the developed world, a sparse 8 percent of consumers polled in a recent survey by American Express Spending & Saving Tracker said they upgrade their phones right when a new model comes out. One third wait until their contract is up to switch. Apple needs these puppies selling like Cronuts. Lines around the block. So “events” like the one tech reporters piled themselves into in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday need to deliver big, new, amazing stuff.

And that actually kind of happened. The company unveiled not one but two new iterations of the iPhone on Tuesday, and they are fairly giant leaps forward. Here are a few key takeaways from the presentation.

Out with the old: Sayonara, iPhone 5. We hardly knew ye. If you want what used to be the latest and greatest Apple smartphone, you’ll have to buy it on Craigslist. Apple will now sell just the two new iPhones in its stores: the 5C and the 5S.

The Fivecheap. That’s what some people call the 5C, because the shell is plastic—ahem, “polycarbonate.” That means you can get it in green, gray, light blue, peachy, yellow. Whatever choice you make will cost an extra $29 as a “case,” which is kind of weird. The 5Cheap is otherwise indeed cheap, though: with a phone contract it costs $99 for 16 gigs of hard-drive space, $199 for 32, and so on. And lest you confuse plastic for “crappy,” know that the 5C has the same snappy A6 processing chip as the 5, a slightly larger battery, and a steel-reinforced body.

The Fivefancy. That’s what I’m calling it, even though fancy doesn’t start with an “s.” (I couldn’t think of anything good. Sophisticated? Superbad?) Anyway, it is crazy fancy. It’s “the most forward-thinking phone we have ever created,” said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, at the Tuesday event. “It’s the most forward-thinking phone anyone’s ever made.”

You can make up your own minds about that:

Yes, fingerprint sensor. Apple buried that lead and didn’t tell us about it until the end of the presentation. That’s right, with the 5Fancy you’ll unlock your phone with your thumb, pressed into the home button. No passwords. A 360-degree scan (so you don’t have to have the thumb in any particular position). No passwords to buy new apps, either. Just a push of the ol’ thumb. It’s cool. Admit it.

New badass chip. To most of us troglodytes, hearing about the difference between an “A6” and an “A7” chip just glosses the eyes over. But the thing to understand about the A7 chip that will stow away in the 5Fancy is that it’s a 64-bit chip, the world’s first. That makes it up to twice as fast as the old iPhone 5, which is already insanely fast.

Another new badass chip. This one is the “M7,” and before your eyes gloss over again, know this: this chip changes much about what the iPhone can do. By aggregating and monitoring the Fancy’s accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compass data, it enables health and fitness apps (like some other smartphones already do). Potentially bad news: that’s what people were kind of expecting from the iWatch, so maybe Apple is hoping this new chip will let the company off the hook for developing a wearable anytime soon. Or maybe! Maybe this is the chip that the iWatch will use to play nicely with the phone. Depends on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person.

New badass camera. Time was, smartphone cameras were lousy replacements for real ones. You could tell when someone posted a picture taken with her phone. That conventional wisdom has flipped on its head in recent years, giving night terrors to the makers of point-and-shoots everywhere. The 5Fancy is basically Freddy Krueger. Not only are the pixels, the aperture, and the sensors bigger (all of which will just make pictures effortlessly prettier) but this camera will come with auto white balance and exposure. And every time you take a picture it’ll secretly take several, showing you only the sharpest one. There’s also “Truetone” flash, a dual-element jobby equipped with 1,000 different color temperatures, so that the old rule of all pictures taken with the flash looking horrible might just no longer apply. But wait, there’s more! The new camera will also have automatic image stabilization; “burst” mode, which will fire off 10 frames per second and groovy “slo mo,” for cool Reservoir Dogs effects. These are not groundbreaking features in the smartphone world, but they are for the iPhone.

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Will these features make the new iPhone worth the upgrade? Sure, at contract time. Are they worth hawking your current phone now so you can buy the thing brand-new? Apple sure hopes so.